My Mother, My Self
January 30, 2011 § 1 Comment
I know there’s a common fear among young people that they will turn into their parents. I’m not sure I ever really “feared” this, mainly because my parents are pretty cool people, but in recent months I’ve noticed how incredibly real that change is. I am changing, developing into a mature adult that very closely resembles the two people who raised me.
It may be unfair to divide the roles my parents held during my childhood since, admittedly, their roles were anything but concrete. What I do remember about my mother’s role, though, was her insistence on cleaning house on the weekends. I remember her getting up early, cooking breakfast (usually for herself, but sometimes she would tempt me out of bed with bacon or pancakes), and blasting Billy Joel or the Beatles as she cleaned the house. The rest of us slugged around on the weekends, rarely getting out of pj’s and bathrobes, getting off the couch only to use the bathroom or grab some munchies. For the rest of us, weekends were a slow time where we could turn off our brains and bodies and rest. From my mother’s perspective, though, I expect it was quite different. Weekends were when non-work work got done, when she could finally do the laundry that had been piling up or vacuum all the tumbleweeds of doghair from the floor. It was a time of opportunity, a time to seize the day.
Mom used to make lists of things to do. Although I can’t speak for anyone else in my family, Mom asked me to help out a lot. She’d let me choose off the list the things I wanted to do, and I would begrudgingly half-agree to do some of it, but I rarely came through and when I did, I half-assed it. I remember weekends as my mother hurricaning throughout the house, leaving cleanliness and tidiness in her wake, while the rest of us sat, unmoved.
I felt some guilt for my lack of assistance as I got a little older, but I didn’t fully understand my mother’s frustration until now. My home, my tiny basement apartment in a rowhouse in Washington, DC, is never sufficiently clean. If the bathroom is clean, then there are dishes in the sink. If there are no dishes in the sink, then there is a pile of laundry to be done. Everywhere I look I see things that need to be done. Now, I live with a man, a fully capable man who is two years my senior. My expectations are that he too will look around and see all the things that need to be done and commit a time in the very near future to do them. Here is where my mother and I share a fatal flaw — we fail to realize that our housemates cannot pry their eyes from their tvs, computers, or iphones long enough to notice that things need to be done and certainly not long enough to actually do them. I’ve witnessed the dramatic and inevitable decline of productivity when the tv is turned on in our home. Even I, the occasional busy bee, am drawn into the bright light and dull noise of the television. Day after day I feel like I’m wasting away because I can’t bring myself to stay away from the television once it’s on. And it’s always on. Always. Alec turns it on the second he gets out of bed, even in the mornings when there isn’t time to watch anything and the only thing on is traffic (which doesn’t affect us cause lord knows we don’t drive here). When he gets home, it’s on. When I go to sleep, it’s on. When I picture Alec in my head now, all I see is his motionless figure staring at the television. It’s infuriating. It’s surely the same thing my mother felt when she tried to rally the troops and we all ignored her efforts. My fury is such that sometimes I want to take my hammer and bash in the television, just to see what our lives would be like without it. What would we accomplish? How much more of DC would we explore? How many more books would we read? What new hobbies would we discover? There’s a world of possibilities outside the television.
Don’t get me wrong, I love sitting on my ass and vegging out. I do, I admit it. But I get tired of it, I get incredibly restless when it’s gone on too long, and the entire time it’s happening I keep thinking “What else could I be doing if I could just bring myself to turn this thing off?”
My parents have always had a … unique perspective of the television and computers, for that matter. As a child, I had a limited amount of television I could watch a day. I think it was shorter than an hour at some early stage, but for the majority of my time under their roof, there was an hour limit on tv time. When we got a computer, the same restriction was applied. We had only one television and only one computer. This is, of course, absolutely unheard of in civilized America where there’s a television to every room. When we moved beyond our boxy PowerMac, we did accumulate a number of computers and the time limit disappeared, but the television restriction remained in place. Tv was my guilty pleasure, and I would sneak television shows whenever I could. After I got caught, the tv was put in the downstairs closet for a full year. Again, absolutely unheard of in American society. Obviously, we survived. And now I long for that kind of simplicity.
As I get older, as I mature or develop or whatever you want to call it, I find myself slowly developing major aspects of my parents’ roles. I wouldn’t mind except I feel that it’s changing my relationship with my housemate. Constantly I find myself acting like a parent to my boyfriend, something that makes me feel guilty and sick to my stomach, yet I can’t help it. What I have yet to develop is my mother’s saintlike patience. She would have tried to work around him, cleaning and humming to herself, getting the things done that need to get done because she accepts the fact that no one else but her will do it.
I’m not quite there yet… I started cleaning around him, then got pissed off, and left.